Facing an estimated $4.7 million price tag and an ever growing scope, town officials are coming under pressure to scale back plans for state-of-the-art athletic fields at Hingham High School.
Though many important decisions haven’t been made, the current price tag includes such options as artificial turf (nearly $1 million), lights ($320,000), and permanent bleachers ($780,000). And then there are the extra toilets required by the state.
“I’m always disappointed when things are more expensive than we thought they would be, and I think a lot of citzens would share that thought as well,” said Superintendent Dorothy Galo. “We don’t have a formal price. They are still looking at areas they can reduce.”
Additional permitting requirements might add on to the cost, and the Planning Board will meet again on the proposal Monday.
From the start, the project was no small feat, featuring the creation of a multipurpose athletic field, reconstruction of the baseball field, and relocation of the JV softball field.
The plan is the second phase — and the crown jewel — of a project that has already renovated the track and the tennis courts, aging facilities that were crumbling under the feet of student-athletes.
But since design began earlier this year, the cost and size of the project have slowly crept upwards, while unexpected roadblocks and state mandates have made the undertaking larger than first envisioned.
After an ad hoc committee decided that permanent bleachers, rather than fold-up ones, would be best for the field because they block more light and sound for neighbors, officials discovered they would have to build restrooms to accompany them.
Under the state’s plumbing code, the roughly 2,000 bleacher seats would require 52 bathroom fixtures.
“Right now, the plumbing code is written for someone building a Foxborough stadium, where people are going and staying four to five hours and alcohol is served, and that’s not what we’re all about,” said Caryl Falvey, chairwoman of the School Committee. “[So] you have the right to go before the [state] plumbing board and ask for a waiver.”
The school hoped that the restrooms in the high school could help meet the requirements, but the state determined they were too far away. The town did receive a waiver for half of the fixtures, reducing the requirement to 26 (17 for females and nine for males).
Still, it comes with a cost, bumping the amenities building, which would also contain a concession stand and storage, up to $505,000.
Parking also proved to be more problematic than anticipated.
The parking lot expansion, estimated to cost $433,000, is intended to satisfy the Hingham Police Department, which says more parking spaces are needed to accommodate town functions, such as high school band concerts, Town Meetings, and graduations.
Currently, the lack of parking near the high school results in people parking along the small side roads, which angers neighbors who feel it’s unsafe. A walkway connecting the parking lot to the school would run an additional $168,000.
In the face of rising costs, school officials are looking for savings, and engineers already are coming up with costs associated with every aspect of the project.
“I’d love to bring this project down under $4 million,’’ said Falvey. “We’ve just started to scratch the surface.”
Discussions will continue into January, and school officials hope to present a final figure to Town Meeting in April. In the meantime, the high price tag and growing sphere of the work has some questioning the components.
For some residents, the plan is too much.
“You could eliminate this stadium aspect of this multipurpose field — instead of fixed bleachers you do flexible movable bleachers [to eliminate the bathrooms],” said Ben Burnham, a neighbor who favors a significantly pared-down project.
“Obviously the building itself, and that was going to have storage and concessions, it would be nice to skip that as well,’’ said Burnham, who said he recognizes the need for better facilities, but doesn’t want to break the bank. “We have a building there for concessions; if it’s not big enough, make it a bit bigger. It would certainly save the town some money.”
In addition to size, funding has been an issue.
Selectman Bruce Rabuffo said the method of funding will depend on what the final plan looks like.
“There is a lot of discussion of the size of the project, how big should it be, and are there alternatives,” he said. “Until I get all the information, I haven’t made a decision [on funding], because I don’t know what it’s going to cost me, and my most important value continues to be tax relief. So let’s see how this fits in.”Continued...